A FAMILY-run laboratory business that has played a part in helping to ensure the Covid vaccine is manufactured safely has turned 50.

Cherwell Laboratories Ltd in Bicester, founded by Lawrence Whittard in 1971, has reached the milestone anniversary thanks to the 'desire' and 'determination' of its staff.

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Now run by his son Andy Whittard, the business evolved over the years and has become a distributor for a range of laboratory equipment.

It is a specialist supplier of 'cleanroom microbiology solutions' meaning its products such as Agar plates (Petri dishes) are used in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries to monitor how clean laboratory environments are.

The sterile products go to hospital labs and pharmaceutical companies, where they are used to check for contamination.

There has been some normality for the 75 employees at Cherwell Laboratories during the pandemic, and despite a change in demand, managing director Andy Whittard is glad to be able to help in the fight against Covid.

He said: "Because of what we do and what we supply, we've been operational throughout, but demand has been a bit up and down because all resources have been pushed towards Covid.

"Some of our clients are part of the vaccine manufacturing process and so it's nice to be able to see that and that we're helping in some way."

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Mr Whittard's wife and daughter both work part-time at the company on Murdock Road and his brother is a minority shareholder.

Although the business sits on a 'modest' site, it is international and has distributed products to clients worldwide including in Europe and Asia.

Mr Whittard said: "It's never obvious how far our reach goes. It's been hard going, but we're a successful growing business and it all comes down to the people we have here and their desire and determination.

"Things may be tough but there's definitely opportunity. We are ambitious to keep going despite the circumstances."

Mr Whittard, who moved to Bicester in 1970 and now lives locally, has been working at Cherwell Laboratories for 30 years and has been the managing director for the past 15.

He plans to hold competitions throughout the year to mark the company's 50th anniversary as well as hold a fun fete-style family event in the summer for employees to celebrate.

The event will also provide an opportunity to celebrate the life of Mr Whittard's father who passed away four months ago.

In 2012, former Bicester mayor Daniel Sames officially opened a new ‘cleanroom’ at Cherwell Laboratories.

At the time, it had 56 employees and a turnover of more than £2 million.

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